The Indian state of Odisha is attracting luxury traveller from all over the world to the country’s first ‘glamping’ festival. The Marine Drive Eco Retreat at the pristine Ramachandi Beach near the grand Konark Sun Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is being held from December 14, 2019, to January 31, 2020.
Glamping is camping with amenities and, in some cases, resort-style services not usually associated with traditional camping.
A new addition to the festival circuit, the Marine Drive Eco Retreat is tempting holidaymakers to dance on its beaches and explore its 480km long pristine coastline.
The eco retreat is giving visitors a unique experience of glamourous camping in 50 Swiss luxury cottages with delectable cuisine, beach spa, adventure and water sports activities, nature trails and wholesome day itineraries and cultural evenings packed with performances by popular Bollywood musicians including Benny Dayal, Indian Ocean, Papon and Salim–Sulaiman.
Visitors get to enjoy plenty of space on the beach, crystal-clear waters as well as easy-going shacks set up for the first time in Odisha. With a wellness programme - yoga and eco trails - running alongside music events, the festival is aimed at those interested in a laid-back beach break as well as those wanting to party at night.
The eco retreat also boasts of a full fledged corporate conferencing facility for 150 people which has so far been availed of by corporate entities such as ONGC, among others. Other features include a food festival, beach market and an events venue to host mega evenings.
Developed to an environmentally sustainable model, the eco retreat incorporates best practices in material utilisation, zero liquid and sewage discharge and holistic waste management. Mary Cusack, a visitor from Great Britain, said the eco retreat was unlike anything she expected in Odisha. “I wanted to do a festival and the pictures just looked amazing so I packed my bags and came here with my partner and kids.”
Vishal K Dev, commissioner and secretary of Odisha Tourism and the man behind the event, said, “We faced a category 4 Cyclone Fani last year which wreaked havoc in Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar among other cities. The state got back on its feet in record time and we decided to do something extraordinary to attract the attention of the world and invite people to Odisha. The response so far has been overwhelming and we will replicate this model in other beaches of Odisha.”
With many visitors opting to stay a full week, the state’s Ministry of Tourism is encouraging guests to explore other highlights of the area. These include the Konark Sun Temple and Chilika Lake, Satpada. Accessible only by boat, the lake has dazzling blue water and diverse wildlife, including migratory birds and Irrawaddy dolphins. A trip to Satpada can lead to hidden beaches - a hint of other secrets this stretch of coast might reveal. It’s the reason why Odisha Tourism’s tagline is ‘India’s best kept secret’.
The eco retreat offers a stay in the midst of nature’s bounty in a luxury tented accommodation with the ambience and hospitality of a five-star hotel. The concept of glamping has caught on with not only the current generation but other age groups too.
Visitors can experience a unique luxury accommodation offering rich thematic ambience, a dedicated dining area and multiple options of staying in the Swiss cottages complete with facilities like airconditioning, entertainment and furnishing as per requirement.
Odisha is already known as the ‘Sports Capital of India’ and with a 480km coastline to boast about, it has started focusing on adventure sports as well. The eco retreat has facilties for jet skiing, speed boating, parasailing, paramotoring, all-terrain vehicles, archery, rifle shooting, bicycles, beach volleyball, zorbing and water rolling.
While the sand itself in Ramachandi makes for a therapeutic walk, an exclusive spa by the sea for guests offers the ultimate detox. The itinerary includes early morning nature trails to the Balukhand sanctuary which are the best way to reinvigorate visitors.
While unique talents and folk artistes from across Odisha and India perform every evening, the weekends come alive with the best of rock, Indie pop, stand-up comedy, celebrity DJs and popular Bollywood singers.
(Odisha-based Ms Taruka Srivastava writes on sports, tourism and marketing among other subjects)